Death panels do not go far enough for Julio Gonzalez.
There should also be a “death index.”
In 2009, the Venice orthopedic surgeon and current State House District 74 hopeful published a 220-page screed entitled Health Care Reform: The Truth. In it, the doctor suggests changes to the American health care system that include a review for “appropriate modes of resource allocation,” something that could be seen as a thinly veiled term for “death panels.”
However, for Gonzalez, death panels seem to be just the beginning.
Gonzalez, who told a group of GOP HD 74 voters he was fervently against Obamacare in 2008 (two months before Obama even became the Democratic presidential nominee), also proposes a “health index,” a ranking system where doctors can administer care based on the “likelihood of limited longevity.”
First death panels now a “Death Index.”
As Gonzalez writes, in pages 168-169 of The Truth:
We have already established that exorbitant amounts of money are paid every year in interventions afforded to patients in their last year of life. Research should be undertaken towards the creation of a health index that predicts the likelihood of limited longevity.
Once the patient reaches that health index score, government and insurance funding designed to cure major illnesses such as cancer should be discontinued. For the sake of the patient, his loved ones and our economy, efforts should be redirected from curative to supportive.
The decision over spending money for that care is removed from the provider and patient alike. After all, it is the third-party payer’s money, and the payer should therefore be free to withhold funding for curative care in cases that are obviously futile to pursue.
Of course, the cutoff score on such an index should be sufficiently high to satisfy reasonable ethical concerns, but not so high as to disband the program completely. It is important to note that although this index should be influenced by the age of the patient, chronological age should not be the sole determinant of the final score.
Gonzalez adds that an “otherwise active 90-year-old” who lives independently and “drives a car” (double yikes!) is more deserving of care in the case of a heart attack than an independent-living 85-year-old with a history of a heart attack, coronary artery and congestive heart failure — even though it may be potentially curable with surgical intervention, chemotherapy and radiation.
The good doctor believes public or private health insurance funds should not fund those life-saving measures.
Of course, the patient can still pay for the procedure out of his own pocket, but Gonzalez says the “exorbitant expense of his treatment would likely be so high as to make such an alternative prohibitive.”
What makes that last passage interesting is that it completely misses the point as to why there is a push for health care reform in the first place — outrageous costs of medical treatment in the United States.
A health index would “acknowledge the reality of our mortality and accept that pursuing expensive, curative intervention is no longer of value to society,” he writes.
Gonzalez’s opinions are certainly not surprising, coming from a physician who received $127,701 in Medicare payments in 2012, while at the same time his wife, a Venice OB/GYN, also took in $116,470.
Nobody disagrees the need for healthcare reform — an issue close to both sides of the political spectrum — but calling for “death panels” or “death indexes” is certainly a questionable tactic for someone seeking public office.
Especially a political hopeful in Southwest Florida, where the majority of voters — particularly Republicans — fall in a demographic that could reasonably find themselves on the wrong side of Gonzalez’s “health index.”